A THINK tank has suggested radical change to local government to ensure the views of residents are heard loud and clear by those in power.

According to Reform Scotland, councils should be headed by directly-elected mayors who meet the First Minister on a regular basis so the “voices and experiences of local areas” are listened to at a national level.

It made the plea in a new paper which argues for a “shift away from central command and control” and calls for a “new and better balance of powers between Holyrood and local government.”

The document states: “By providing a forum where the mayors and the First Minister have regular public meetings, there is an opportunity to listen more, improve policy, learn from good practice and increase accountability.”

Reform Scotland argues that, currently, council leaders “can be viewed as a lower-level politician than a backbench MSP, despite occupying a prestigious role.”

Elected mayors would be a “clear figurehead” for their local area, with Reform Scotland claiming the introduction of such leaders in places like London and the West Midlands had not only given these areas a greater voice but had also stimulated “interest in and awareness of local government.”

Reform Scotland suggested that a local mayor should be directly elected by residents across the whole council area, giving them a “strong, personal democratic mandate.”

Mayoral elections would take place at the same time as council elections and giving voters the choice would mean the successful candidate has “direct accountability to the local population, rather than just to party colleagues and voters in a single ward.”

The report states: “The mayor would play a bigger role in terms of representing the area at Holyrood, Westminster and internationally.

“They would be the people’s representative, rather than a party’s representative to the people.”

Alison Payne, Reform Scotland’s research director, added: “Although councils run many of the services that are most important to our everyday lives, few of us know who is in charge and who we should be holding accountable.”